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#30×30 Day 10 : Winter Blues

June 10, 2021

Here’s a change of pace! April in Quebec!

I’ve been painting all these landscapes of New Mexico, Arizona, California – because these are the sorts of places you go when you’re escaping Canada in the winter. That – and my own natural inclination towards vast, open landscapes with very little in them.

But in fact, I do have a few winter paintings.

There’s a group of artists who used to meet every April in an area just north of Quebec city. We’ve gone a few times to paint along with them. This was very early on in my experimentation with impasto oil painting – as far back as 2015.

Looking back at a favorite piece from these trips, I see the same landscape. This was very nearly the same view. Within a few minutes drive anyway, somewhere near the town of Baie Saint Paul.

I think you can recognize the fields with the winter stubble, and the view of the bay in each, but, in the oil I’ve chosen a careful crop that avoided any trees. There’s no foreground at all – because of course, that kind of subject with a lot of intricate detail is very difficult to do with a palette knife – especially at 10″ tall.

It’s kind of a trade off – as much as I enjoy the powerful simplification in these small oils, I also love the opportunity to do calligraphic brushwork like these pine trees. It’s so much fun to get down into the details.

This is like the time back in 2016 when I was debating Drawing vs. Painting :) Now I’m debating transparent vs opaque, delicacy vs boldness, brush vs. knife :)

I guess I’m not going to come to any conclusions right now! But this is the purpose of the experiment I suppose :)

Oh, one last thing!

Look at that sky! I finally learned to make a flat wash!

You would think I’d have gotten around to this before now hey?

But honestly, in all my years of painting, this isn’t a skill I found necessary.

I’ve always worked small-ish, and with a very small travel palette, and always just mixed color as I go – often, just mixing on the page.

It’s only now that I’m getting around to learning how to do this kind of flat under-tone.

It’s not hard – you just need to take the steps. Mixing enough pigment in advance (I use little 30ml disposable medicine cups – because I inherited a few hundred of them). Pre-wetting the paper – but maybe waiting a bit till the gloss starts to fade and it’s not soaking wet – otherwise you get drips! And then painting in one quick passage across and down – and never never never going back and touching the wash. Never touch it! You will get a bloom!

So then you have this flat wash, and the undertones are there to show through the gaps in the other brushwork, making the whole painting more consistent, more ‘of a tone’. Otherwise, you will have pure white showing in gaps – which is great for some things, but not an area of shadow.

In any case, after this prep, it’s back to Direct Watercolor as normal.

By the way – I’m working on loose sheets now, which I don’t bother to tape down. They do buckle significantly with this ‘pour’ stage.

Now that I’m using so much more paint, I can’t rely on taping. In the past, I was a more controlled painter, so I didn’t get the tape wet. But, after a certain point, it’s just too much moisture and it loses its grip. So I’ve given up on tape entirely for studio work, and thus, sometimes I need to dry and flatten the loose paper before continuing to paint, and sometimes again after the whole thing is finished. (You can’t skip taping for location work though – no time to flatten – and more important, the wind is just annoying if your paper isn’t locked down.)

When you dry the painting with a hair dryer, it may curl up into a tube. I paint clear water on the back, and sometimes lightly mist the front, so the paper goes limp again. Usually the image is safe to mist, unless there is particularly thick paint – which will sometimes stick to the blotting paper, but that’s not normally a problem in an ‘impasto’ area. Ideally you won’t have a thick bit of paint on a person’s face or in the midst of a delicate flower.

If so, you might want to any thick highlights after pressing (even though I just do it and live with the results).

So yes – I put the now limp painting between many many sheets of cartridge paper, like, a half inch both above and below, to serve as blotting paper. It will wick the moisture away, and also press flat without impressions from the weight. I’m using newsprint moving paper meant for packing dishes. Then a sheet of plexiglass on top for superstitious reasons (it’s smooth), and a stack of books, or even better, plywood drawing boards on top, since, I have a lot of plywood boards from the days I used to staple paper down.

Leave it like that for a few hours and it comes out perfectly flat. Mostly. Sometimes there is a faint wrinkle, but you can do the process over again, or just live with it.

So that leads to another admission! I’m calling this Day 10 – but in fact, I’ve taken to doing the initial colored flood and leaving it to flatten. So, I’m actually starting an image on Day 08 or 09 and finishing it on Day 10, unless I happen to get a first wash done early in the day and can get back to it that evening. Many times, if the flooded wash goes too badly wrong, I will just tear it up at that stage and not even flatten it. Usually the issue is it’s too pale – or – I might have picked a wrong pigment and the wash is simply too intensely chromatic. Or – I just get a huge bloom in the wrong place. Many things can happen!

My advertised theory of Direct Watercolor is ‘as little preparation as possible’. Which is a mealy-mouthed kind of rule, because you can say things like – well, I really am doing as little as possible! Even when you are cheating like hell.

So that was way too much information! But that’s my writing style and I guess you’re used to it by now.

Take care and see you tomorrow!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Margaret Horak permalink
    June 10, 2021 2:39 PM

    Thank you for clearing things up, Marc! 😊

    • Bernadette permalink
      June 10, 2021 5:43 PM

      I’m VERY partial to your watercolor….gorgeous! You inspire me to keep plugging along. Although I have not shared, I have been faithful in my daily direct watercolors. Today in a downpour, I painted cars in the parking lot while waiting for the rain to slow down or stop.
      It’s great getting your daily posts….you’ve helped inspire me to paint wherever I am!

  2. Jean permalink
    June 13, 2021 4:02 PM

    All your comments, brief or lengthy, are worth reading…thank you!! and i really like the watercolour at the top of this message!

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